Lambda Legal Defends Lesbian Mother in Ohio Custody Matter

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"These children have a right to the love and support of both parents."

Date

Date: 
01/21/2009

(Cleveland, Ohio, January 21, 2009) — In court papers submitted in the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal defended a lesbian mother in her fight to continue to parent her 11- and 8-year-old sons.


"These children have a right to the love and support of both of their parents," said Camilla Taylor Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. "The Ohio Supreme Court already has said that Ohio's antigay constitutional amendment does not prevent a same-sex couple from sharing custody of the children they are rearing together. We shouldn't have to address this hurtful and discriminatory argument any longer. The trial court below in this case did the right thing by focusing on the needs of the children, and awarding shared custody to these women based on more than a century of Ohio case law allowing such orders."


Lambda Legal represents Rita Goodman in her pursuit to continue to parent her two sons. Goodman and her former partner Siobhan LaPiana were in a committed relationship for 10 years. During that time the women planned and had two children. LaPiana gave birth to the children but both women equally parented the boys, who love and rely on both of them as their mothers. Before the birth of the first child, Goodman and LaPiana drafted and signed a parenting agreement detailing their intent to share all responsibilities of parenthood. After the couple split, LaPiana began restricting Goodman's time with the boys. In February 2007, Goodman filed a lawsuit, and in August, 2008, the trial court ordered visitation for Goodman. LaPiana appealed, arguing, among other things, that Ohio's antigay constitutional amendment prevents courts from entering orders permitting former lesbian partners to share custody, and that the court's order unconstitutionally infringed on her right to autonomy as a parent.


Lambda Legal argues that Ohio's antigay constitutional amendment has no impact on Ohio courts' authority to order shared custody between former same-sex partners. Additionally, Lambda Legal argues that because LaPiana agreed to co–parent her children from birth with Goodman, it is constitutional for courts to step in to protect the children's bonded relationship to Goodman.


On December 31, 2008, in the Lambda Legal case, In re J.D.F., the Ohio Supreme Court rejected a similar effort by a woman in a custody dispute with her former partner to use Ohio's antigay constitutional amendment as a weapon to sever the parental relationship between her child and her former partner.


"This has always been about my sons and making sure they can rely on both of their parents. I made a promise to take care of them always — and I'm just trying to make good on that promise," said Lambda Legal client Rita Goodman.


Lambda Legal represents Rita Goodman along with cooperating attorney Pamela J. MacAdams, of Camilla Taylor, Senior Staff Attorney is handling the case for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co–counsel Pamela J. MacAdams of Morganstern, MacAdams & DeVito Co., LPA, in Cleveland, Ohio.


The case is In re S.J.L. and J.K.L.


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Erin Baer 212-809-8585 ext.267; Email: ebaer@lambdalegal.org

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